Research Question: How can the impact of epilepsy be reduced in low- and middle- income countries?
Mfuwe in the Eastern Province of Zambia was selected as our focus area because local healthcare providers reached out to us for a collaboration in an effort combat the elevated epilepsy rates and the large diagnosis and treatment gaps in in their region. Our team members have created an organization, the Mfuwe Epilepsy Foundation, to help raise funds for an Epilepsy Medical Center to be built in their community. The Center will be focused on epilepsy research and dedicated to reducing the stigma of epilepsy in the population.
In Colombia, the prevalence of idiopathic epilepsy is more than 1.5x higher than rates worldwide, at approximately 539 per 100,000 population. In addition, the treatment gap for epilepsy is estimated at 73%. According to the WHO, up to 70% of patients could become seizure-free with daily, low-cost anticonvulsant medicine. Our research will take place in Chocó. This is the department in Colombia that has the second highest rate of monetary poverty in Colombia. To gain a better understanding of the situation of people with epilepsy in resource-poor areas, the research will focus on the care pathways and treatment of epilepsy in Chocó.
Chile is a country with almost 20 million inhabitants that is isolated by the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains. Chile has a lack on medical specialists with a majority working in the private sector and the tertiary healthcare system concentrated in the large cities. Currently, Chile has 605 licensed neurologists, but only 292 neurologists are working in the public healthcare system providing medical care to ∼80% of the total population. Due to the geographic situation, the shortage of specialists and the concentration to the metropolitan areas, waiting lists are increasing every year. Telemedicine can provide new opportunities to overcome these difficulties. Therefore, the research in Chile will concentrate on the implementation of Telemedicine in Chile and a possible transfer of a national tele-neurology system to other countries.
Ghana is one of the four countries that WHO selected as a pilot in the “Fight against epilepsy” (2012-2016) and presents as a model for introducing the care of epilepsy patients at lower levels. There is a long-standing research cooperation between Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Bonn University Hospital, now focussed in the German-West African Center for Global Health and Pandemic Preparedness (G-WAC).